Buying the right luggage for less

Save on Luggage

by Debra Karplus

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That luggage that Aunt Mildred bought you when you graduated high school and you went off to college has served you well for many years. But if you are planning to do any travelling in the near future, you had better read very carefully each airline's detailed allowances for checked bags and especially for carry-on baggage before you select a flight and click on "purchase ticket."

The discount airlines such as Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant Air, for example, may be the trickiest because they are able to keep their fares low by charging for every bag you take with you. Your $313 ticket from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (BMI) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Frontier Airlines can quickly turn into a trip costing over $413 when you include that too-large bag that you intended to bring as a carry-on bag but the airline disallows when you show up at the gate ready to board your plane. However, you can be ahead of the game. It may be time to inventory the luggage that you currently have and perhaps buy affordable, good quality luggage that you can fly with for no added charges.

Airlines have gotten very picky in recent years about your luggage for a couple of reasons. Fuel to fly planes has gotten ridiculously expensive, and the heavier the load, the greater the fuel cost for planes. The airlines have consequently passed this cost on to you, the passenger, in a of couple ways. First, airfares have gotten more expensive. Additionally, passengers who are carrying more stuff with them are now paying their way with added costs for both checked and carry-on baggage. Also, airlines are trying to be diligent about on-time departures. It's often the passengers with the carry-on luggage that they are trying to stuff into the overhead bins that slows down the boarding process. Next time you are flying, watch those people struggle with getting their suitcases into the overheads, especially those rolling bags.

Many airlines are charging for each checked bag. The current allowance for most carriers is 62 linear inches. This means that the length plus width plus height of the suitcase including handles and wheels cannot exceed 62 inches. But since baggage requirements seem to be every-changing and vary from airline to airline, you want to check baggage allowance for each trip you are booking on that specific airline.

When buying luggage to carry on to a plane, you have many things to consider. First, assess whether you need wheels. Wheels slightly add to the size and weight of your luggage, but if you have trouble with your back, you probably would rather roll a bag than carry one. Also, if you typically fly from smaller airports or often have connecting flights, you'll often be taking long treks at large airports and would likely prefer a rolling bag.

At the time of this writing, many of the airlines such as Delta are allowing one personal item plus one carry-on for free. This carry-on must not exceed 22 by 14 by 9 inches in size. Be sure to bring a tape measure when shopping for luggage and carefully measure the particular bag you want. Always include the handle and wheels in your measurement because the airlines will! You should be able to find a decent quality carry-on bag on wheels for about $50 at places like TJ Maxx or Walmart. And though you can easily buy a bag online, this may be one purchase you want to do at a store, so you can see what the bag looks like inside and also obtain accurate measurements. Suitcases now come in a variety of sizes. You can even buy yellow, which will always be easy to spot, but difficult to keep clean.

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If you do not require a rolling bag or do not need hard sides or a rectangular shaped suitcase, you have many more options, most of which cost even less than $50 for a quality suitcase. There are backpacks designed for travel that are on wheels and also duffle bag type luggage for travel. Look online at some of the choices available before you head to the nearby discount store. Your only real requirement is that it be allowed in the cabin and will fit into the overhead bin.

Like many purchases, with luggage, you are likely to get better quality by paying more. But since airline baggage regulations often change, it might not be worth it to invest too much into the purchase of luggage, whether for carry-on or as a checked bag.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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